Young Children and Sleep: Is Your Child Still Afraid to Sleep Alone?
By Melissa A
Almost every night at around three a.m. we’re greeted by a little visitor. This visitor is a four-year-old boy who climbs into our bed and demands we share our blanket with him. We ask him how he got in our bed and he says, “I had a bad dream about monsters.” This has become such a regular occurrence that we’ve been trying every method possible to get him to stay in his bed.
When I was a kid, I was afraid of “things that went bump in the night.” This could be any noise that was out of the ordinary, the room being too dark, thinking my stuffed animals were coming alive, thinking vampires were going to visit me (I would sleep with the covers tucked around my neck), etc. So I know exactly what M is going through. The other night, he told me that his monster dreams were making him turn into a monster. He also made me hide these Frankenstein monster dolls (that sing “The Monster Mash”) so he wouldn’t have to look at them. He also said that the monsters were hiding in his mirror, so I covered it with a sheet. That worked for only ONE night. I did it again the next night and it didn’t help the three a.m. bedroom transfer.
In the past, I’ve tried talking with him about pleasant things before he goes to sleep. My husband does a special mantra with him that makes no sense to anyone outside of the three of us. I did a chant about bad dreams that my neighbor uses with her kids. I even got him a spray bottle to use as “monster repellent.” It ended up being used for outdoor play instead. I put a sticker on his calendar every time he stays in bed for the night, telling him that after he earns 15 stickers, he can have a special prize. That is how much I’m craving consistency in terms of not being woken up in the middle of the night. For those of you who think we should lock our door, you haven’t heard him try to beat it down and scream his head off while doing so.
There was a time when E was the same age as M and he used to be the one in our bed every night. Eventually, he outgrew it. I’m hoping M will do the same before I have to do an intervention. (“Dear M, When you wake me up at three in the morning, it makes me very tired and then I can’t get focused to give you breakfast…”) I also hope that he won’t teach our daughter to do the same.
Any tips for helping us get rid of the bad dreams so M will stay in his bed? What worked for your kids?